MADISON (WKOW) -- Scott Walker, a Republican candidate for governor, on Wednesday returned over $40,000 in campaign contributions amid a review by the Government Accountability Board, and a committee for Assembly Democrats gave away $3,500 it received from the same donor.
The Walker campaign says eight employees of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, including William Gardner, president and chief executive officer, contributed $43,800 to the Milwaukee County executive's campaign.
But Gardner's attorney said the money was actually railroad company dollars funneled to the employees. If true, the actions would be a violation of state law that forbids corporations from giving to candidates.
Robert Friebert, a Milwaukee attorney who represents Gardner, said his client was taking "full responsibility for all of this."
"He was the one who put this together," Friebert said, but he added that Gardner did not intentionally violate the law. "I just think he totally misunderstood things."
Keith Gilkes, Walker's campaign manager, said Gardner, through his representatives, informed the campaign about the scheme on Tuesday morning. The campaign then refunded the money in question and notified the GAB.
Gilkes said the contributors were identified because large contributors are required to list their occupations and employers. He said Gardner is now banned from giving to the campaign, even from his personal accounts.
Gilkes said Walker and Gardner had spoken with each other in the past and discussed issues, such as rail transportation. He would not speculate on Gardner's motivation for attempting to give company dollars to Walker.
Meantime, Gardner also gave $3,500 to the campaign committee for Assembly Democrats. Nicholl Caruso, director for the committee, says she wasn't sure if the money was properly given, but she donated the money to charity after contacting the GAB.
Friebert said the railroad gave money to other campaigns, but declined to name them.
Gardner learned about the impropriety of his actions in recent weeks after returning from an overseas trip, Friebert said.
Friebert said Gardner owns "practically all of the company," save for a small amount owned by a third party.